Go private for BBB
DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - September 23, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The economic managers are once again saying Build Build Build will power the economy. They are banking on BBB to “fuel our bounce back” because it has the “best multiplier effects in terms of employment and shared prosperity.”

The economic managers were gung-ho on BBB shortly after Duterte took office and they created a lot of expectations. Four years after and BBB is found short on delivery. Why should it be any different this time?

I was just reading a report that showed how DPWH underspent their humongous budget. The bureaucracy simply finds it difficult to execute on time. But their PR efforts are stronger than ever making claims that aren’t exactly true.

For example, they claimed they were responsible for completion of the final leg of TPLEX. It is true DPWH has supervision authority over the project but the claim that it is a DPWH accomplishment is too much. It is a private sector project, San Miguel’s.

Indeed, if DPWH in PNoy’s time had been more productive and helpful, that final leg would have been delivered years earlier. I am aware of the right of way problems that delayed construction. Securing ROW is DPWH’s responsibility.

Same thing with the social media posts of DPWH that suggest the completion of the Stage 3 Skyway project from Makati to Balintawak this December is their accomplishment.

Again, it is a private sector project, also by San Miguel. Once more, if DPWH during PNoy’s time was quicker in resolving ROW problems, that segment would have been completed years ago.

If the economic managers are depending on the bureaucracy to push BBB to produce the desired economic impact, they are delusional. If little happened in four years, why hope that the next two years will be better?

The only remaining hope of the Duterte administration to deliver flagship projects lies with the private sector. PPP rather than BBB will produce the desired effects on the economy as we recover.

Again, with San Miguel breaking ground on its Bulacan airport, employment in the area will start to rise.

The other big project that must get off the ground is the NAIA rehabilitation. I heard that Megawide has accepted all the terms and conditions imposed by the Finance department and DOTr. The ball is now in the government’s court. We lost two years negotiating with the taipans’ consortium that went nowhere.

It would be ideal for Megawide to start the NAIA rehab as early as now while the number of flights are abnormally low due to COVID restrictions. They can use the next two years to work on improvements and be ready to meet normal demand on the third year. Hopefully, by then, flights have climbed back to normal levels.

Given their performance at Mactan and Clark, there is confidence Megawide can deliver on the demands of government in the terms of reference. I recall from a pre-COVID briefing that Megawide can serve as many as 65 million passengers a year from the pre-COVID 40 million with no new runway.

I recall that they have a consultant with expertise in managing airports with runways like NAIA’s. They have also agreed to put in a rail system to connect all the NAIA terminals, and not just a BRT that the super consortium proposed.

Last I heard, Sec. Sonny Dominguez and Sec. Art Tugade gave Megawide one week to submit a final proposal which they did. It is now at NEDA for final clearance.

They should rush approval, but I am sure there are many elements within NAIA, from managers to concessionaires who are working to sabotage the project for obvious reasons. Hopefully Sonny and Art are more determined than ever to see this through.

Sec. Art is particularly eager to see projects get implemented quickly. His quick action on the EDSA BRT is laudable. Hopefully, he gets the LRT 2 delivered, both the extension and the fire-damaged section.

The construction of the Trinoma common station is going on smoothly and so is the North Rail projects. It took a lot of time for DOTr to get going. That’s why the only viable strategy if we want economic impact felt sooner is to use PPP to help BBB.

COVID travel protocol

After my column last Friday was published, it occurred to me that maybe the COVID positive congresswoman rode on an Air Force plane rather than commercial since no airline would confirm it. A reliable source belatedly told me the plane landed at Villamor.

I can think of that as a mercy flight, but the question arises: Who is entitled to mercy flights at government expense?

A Michelle Marchadesch-Roxas tweeted me that “the congresswoman in question was on an air ambulance, at no time was any member of the public exposed.”

If it was a private air ambulance flight, what is the protocol in transporting COVID positive patients out of their home base? Would a private flight of an ordinary citizen similarly situated be allowed under COVID protocol?

Then Sorsogon Gov. Chiz Escudero sent me this message through a common friend:

“She did chemo 2x a week at Legazpi hospital where she most likely got it. Was confined at Sorsogon because difficulty in breathing and tested positive.

“Family decided to airlift her via PAF plane, but delayed by a day because of weather disturbance. Was intubated and transferred the following day. Suffered fatal seizure within minutes after take-off at Legazpi. Was officially pronounced dead at 1:45 p.m.”

People are understandably sensitive to suggestions of special treatment in the light of harsh IATF protocols. I will leave this case here, in the hope that IATF will prepare proper protocols for similar cases in the future.

Maybe our congressmen will allocate enough funds for regional tertiary hospitals that can handle difficult cases so there is no more need to airlift to Manila.

And if an ordinary citizen needs airlifting, hopefully, the PAF will be as accommodating.

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is bchanco@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

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